Merrillville council OKs expansion of private school
By Karen Caffarini Post-Tribune correspondent October 23, 2012 8:54PM
Updated: November 25, 2012 11:40AM
MERRILLVILLE — The Town Council on Tuesday approved a private school’s expansion into another unit in the same building at 8101 Polo Drive to accommodate its rapid growth.
Council approval was needed because the school’s original request was approved only for the previous location.
Ronda Payne, CEO and principal of Midwest Elite Preparatory Academy, said the pre-K-12 school has grown from about 30 students when it opened in the former Cafe Venezia last year to 70 with a number of potential students placed on a waiting list due to space constraints.
Payne said she hopes to have 150 students when she opens in her new expanded space in January, including those on the waiting list. About half of the students are enrolled in the pre-K and kindergarten programs.
“We go year-round. We offer Japanese, Spanish lessons. Our kids graduate at age 16,” Payne told the council.
She said the school has seven teachers and she expects to add three more with the expansion.
Councilwoman Chrissy Barron, D-5th, said she talked to a number of people about the school and received all positive comments.
“It’s the best place for a school,” Barron said of the location.
The council also approved a special exception to allow Arte Emmanolidis to build and operate an auto repair and maintenance facility at 9273 Taft St., with the stipulation that there be no outdoor parking in the front of the building and it follow landscape requirements. Emmanolidis said he also has auto repair shops in Griffith, Gary and Portage.
The council approved its proposed 2013 budget of $21,164,164, which includes $8.8 million in the general fund. The town is seeking a $1 million excessive levy from the state. Town administrator Howard Fink said the budget amount is virtually the same as last year’s budget.
Councilman Tom Goralczyk, D-4th, said parking lot improvements at town hall should be completed the first week in November, adding interior improvements won’t begin until after the annual tree-lighting ceremony on Nov. 16.
He said the interior work, which will include new paint and carpeting, will begin in the offices with the common areas done last.